Wednesday 20 June 2018

Do modern-day mums and dads have it tougher than their own parents?

Jen Hogan asks two generations for their views

Ross and Norman Good
Ross and Norman Good
Vintage parenting

The demands and expectations of modern-day parenthood have changed hugely. While many of us may have recollections of childhoods where mothers stayed at home and entertainment was provided by hours spent outdoors playing with neighbourhood children, these days many households have two working parents, and activities are less spontaneous and more scheduled into a tightly packed family timetable. The pressure to have it all and be all things to our children is real.

We're no different in this house, mornings are fractious affairs as we battle to get five children to school, one to Montessori and the other to his childminder before work. As a part-time worker, I appear to have the perfect balance. The reality is I often feel I have zero balance, trying to be all things to all people, while managing to be nothing wholly to any. Modern-day parenthood may play out in more advanced and progressive times but parents are still human beneath all the demands.

Ross Good is a father of two girls and blogs about life as a stay-at-home dad at thestentedpapa.com. Following heart surgery at just 37, he made the decision to stay at home with his daughters, which he describes as "the best thing that ever happened to me".

He believes the demands of modern life, the exorbitant costs of childcare, commutes - which reduce the amount of quality time parents get to spend with their children - and the lesser sense of community means that parents today have it tougher than the generation before.

The blogger recognises, however, the advantages that today's parents have. "The internet has enriched our lives in a way which was inconceivable only a few decades ago. It's got everything anyone needs in an instant.

"Dads are so much more involved in their children's lives today versus previous generations," he adds, pointing out that it's not unusual to see fathers carrying babies in slings or pushing buggies.

"The older generation struggle with the dad being the one to stay at home and not earn," he says. "The majority of our generation have zero issues with it. My wife's salary trumps my salary so it was a no-brainer for us. It's also amazing to see women getting the top jobs with major companies and getting the respect they deserve."

Ross's father Norman believes parents nowadays have very different challenges to manage, including internet bullying, the pressure of creating an education fund and antibiotic resistance.

Norman's advice to today's parents is to reprimand their children as required, and also to "instil respect for others of all ages, to show an interest in all of their children's activities and to constantly check out friends' backgrounds".

Jolene Cox is a mum-of-one and parenting blogger at oneyummymummy.com. She has significant previous experience in the childcare sector.

Jolene feels parents today have it harder than the previous generation. "Working, running the home, spending time with the kids, cooking, cleaning. Doing it all and still looking like something that's just stepped out of London Fashion Week - it's impossible," she says.

"I have seen powerful, educated women, rushing to do the crèche drop in the morning to get into work. The traffic, morning stresses, followed by the work stresses, followed by home stresses of dinner, homework, bath and bed in the evening. It's really hard compared to my mother's generation when money was tight but everyone was in the same boat."

She feels we could learn from our parent's time where the pace was slower and the sense of community more. "Women weren't afraid to ask for a dig out from a neighbour if they needed it. Nowadays we are more afraid to ask for help in case it makes us look vulnerable. On the upside, we are listening to our children more and validating their feelings. The generation of children should be seen and not heard is gone."

Jolene's mum Mary feels that getting children out to play is a huge challenge. "In my day it was safe and we lived in the country, but the kids would be gone off to play for hours. Nowadays, kids are indoors more, in front of the telly and tablets.

"Money was so tight and trying to make it stretch with paying the bills and feeding our families was the biggest challenge. We would only ever buy things we really needed."

Mary's advice to today's parents is to try slowing down a bit. "Raising your kids are the best days of your lives, and although there are huge challenges, it goes by in the blink of an eye. Enjoy it too," she says.

Clinical psychotherapist Joanna Fortune says that one of the biggest changes in parenthood nowadays is isolation. "In a time of supposed hyper connectivity, people can often feel alone and lonely in parenting, not knowing neighbours and living away from family.

"I think parental guilt is higher for today's parents as they are away from their children more and tend to compensate by parenting more intensively when together.

"Changes in discipline are also very apparent. There is more focus on using discipline to teach rather than punish a child. We are moving away from shame-based discipline strategies, too. Children feel they can speak more openly and about things like their feelings."

The psychotherapist believes both generations of parents can support and learn from each other. "Parenting has evolved in response to the changing society we all live in, but lessons from the past are also important," she says.

Irish Independent

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